Frank Field MP
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The Decline of Social Mobility?

How do we explain why social mobility has been on the decline? I look at part of this debate in my Liverpool Echo column today. The term ‘social mobility' is used in at least two ways. The first is how I have used it in the article - meaning how many people from a less advantaged background move into more advantaged positions. The immediate post war period was marked by a big increase in the welfare state and middle class jobs. This made upward mobility a lot easier.

A more radical view of social mobility is to measure movements both up and down the occupational/income ladder. Can children from middle class families fall in the hierarchy with their places taken by those from poorer homes? In this sense social mobility can work even if there is no expanse in more prosperous jobs.

I suggested that a key reason not yet considered in trying to understand why social mobility in the first sense has stalled is a dramatic change in parenting, particularly in some poorer homes.

A tough love approach appears to be highly beneficial in developing cognitive skills in children and it is these skills that make it easiest to learn.

My Liverpool Echo column is here and so too is the address I gave on Monday when the think tank Demos launched its commission on character.
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I think the decision of the Labour Government to introduce fees for higher education in the UK, and then to triple them some time later, might be contributory factors to any decline in social mobility. Kids are coming out of university lumbered with major debts, which then inevitably affect their ability to follow in the footsteps of their parents by establishing themselves as independent. I have long had the highest regard for Mr Field, ever since I became aware of his beliefs when studying Social Administration at Glasgow University in 1975, but believe these comments of his to be disingenuous, at best. I am happy to be identified as the author of these remarks.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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